Monday, November 29, 2010

Java Trip (VIII)

Kawah Ijen

With the Bromo Sunrise Tour coming to an end at 8.30am, I set sight on my next stop – Kawah Ijen, or Ijen Crater.

The tour operator picked me up at Yoschi Hotel at 10am. There were three other participants – two Belgians and an Australian. Kawah Ijen was pretty far away, and the access road was VERY BAD. We spent that night at a coffee plantation in Sempol.

The following day we woke up at 3.30am, had breakfast at 4am, and check-out from the hotel at 4.30am. At around 5 in the morning we reached the Ijen National Park. From the entrance, we had to walk 3km up the hill.

Before I left for Java, someone had already warned me that the 3km hike to the rim of the crater would be very tough. I did everything I could to reduce the weight of my bag: The 908-page Lonely Planet and one of my two lenses were left in the car; I had eight AA size batteries. The Australian lady happened to need AA batteries, so I happily loaned four to her.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake for not bringing a raincoat or umbrella. It started to rain as we were ready to set out, and I had to look for shelter. The Austrian lady, who had an umbrella, was way ahead of me. I almost wanted to ask her, “Can we share the umbrella?”

It took me more than an hour before I made it to the rim of the crater. My efforts paid off, as I was presented with a view which marveled me. I took picture with great care. The wind was strong. I was concerned that I would be blown off the ground and tumble into the crater.

Kawah Ijen also produced sulfur. Workers transported loads of sulfur from the crater to the foot of the hill. It was a tough job which paid very little. I was told that the workers got 600 Rp for every kilogram they carried.

By the way, I was proud to be the only visitor who was neither Westerner nor Indonesian on that day…

Sulfur collectors:

The sign reads: All visitors strictly forbidden to go down to the crater… (But the sulfur collectors kept persuading us to descend.)

Two baskets of sulfur:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Loy Krathong in Malaysia

Loy (“to float”) Krathong (“a leaf cup”) – the most charming festival in Thailand – honors both Buddhist traditions and the ancient water spirit of Mae Kong Ka, the Mother Waters of the Ganges River. Loy Krathong perhaps dates back to Hindu India, but the present form was developed by the Thais at Sukhothai to honor the rains which had watered the earth and to wash away the sins of the previous year.

Loy Krathong begins with a full-day parade of beauty queens, floral floats, and hundreds of participants dressed in historical costumes. As the sun falls, pilgrims launch thousands of tiny banana-leaf boats, each carrying a single candle, onto the rivers and lakes throughout the kingdom – a wonderful, delicate illusion enhanced by the light of the full moon.

(Carl Parkes, Thailand Handbook)

I didn’t go to Thailand, but a Thai temple in Malaysia, Wat Chetawan, celebrated this festival on Nov 20, 2010. Out of curiosity, I went there for a look. As I had sent my DSLR to Canon for service, all my pictures were taken with Panasonic Lumix…

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Java Trip (VII)

The Belgian tourist with an Indonesian student

How Indonesians learn English

I joined a package tour to Kawah Ijen immediately after the Bromo tour. There were a total of four participants – two Belgians, one Austrian, and me.

We stopped at a resto in Pantai Pasir Putih for lunch. As we were waiting for our food to be served, a group of students entered the premises and started to chat with the Westerners. It turned out that their teacher wanted them to practice their English with foreign tourists. (My Austrian tour mate told me that she had similar experience elsewhere in Indonesia. It looked like such practice was common throughout the island nation.)

These students even asked for the e-mail addresses and Facebook accounts of the Westerners…

But I was left fuming, “WTF, do you think I don’t speak English!??”

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Future of 4G

[Another break from my Java series...]

WiMAX a.k.a. 4G technology is already in town. Should you go for it? Or should you wait for the competing platform called LTE (Long Term Evolution)?

Learn more about 4G in my other blog:

The Coming 4G War

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Java Trip (VI)

Up Close with Mt Bromo

After viewing Mt Bromo and the surrounding landscape from the top of Mt Penanjakan, we rode the jeep downhill at around 6am. The second half of the tour – scaling the volcano.

But first we had to cross the Lautan Pasir, or Sand Ocean. Tourists who did not want to walk on foot could get a horse ride, at a fee. Near the foot of the volcanic cone, there was a stairway to the rim of the crater. Lonely Planet said the stairway had 253 steps, but other sources gave 246, 248, or 250. Horses would stop here, so tourists must rely on themselves for the final part of the journey.

There was a Hindu temple on the Sand Ocean. It is worth noting that natives of the area were mostly Hindus.

Again I will let my photos do the talking…

This is the jeep I rode for my Bromo tour:

Stone markers show the way to Mt Bromo:

Horse ride on Lautan Pasir:

Advancing to Mt Bromo:

Hindu temple:

Stairway to the summit:

Fumes from the crater:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Java Trip (V)

Bromo Sunrise Tour

On the second day of my Java trip, I woke up at 5am. Some readers of this blog were exclaiming, “Oh, that’s so early!” Well, I had to wake up at 3am on the following day for the Bromo Sunrise Tour.

By 3.30am, I was at the front desk. A jeep came to pick up the participants. There were four of us. We proceeded to Cemoro Lawang, where two more tourists joined the group. We were then driven to the top of Mount Penanjakan. At 2,770m, Mt Penanjakan provided the best viewpoint for Mt Bromo (2,329m) and its surrounding landscape.

Before my flight to Java, I already learned that temperature on Mt Penanjakan could drop to 5C in the morning. I was well prepared by wearing 4 layers of clothing, including a jacket rented from Yoschi Hotel. Beneath my jeans was a pair of thermal undergarment. I also wore a winter hat which I bought the day earlier. But it turned out that the temperature wasn’t as cold as I thought. Maybe it was especially warm on that day; maybe it was because of the crowd…

I will let my pictures do the talking…

Shops on Mt Penanjakan:

Before sunrise:

(near to far) Mt Batok, Mt Bromo (belching smoke), Mt Semeru:

This place was full of people 30 minutes earlier. When I took this picture the crowd had dispersed:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Java Trip (IV)

Yoschi Hotel

Cemoro Lawang (sometimes written as Cemara Lawang) was the last settlement before Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, the highlight of my Java trip. Many tourists spent the night here. Unfortunately, hotels in Cemoro Lawang were a bit pricey. As a traveler on a shoestring, I always tried to be kiamsiap (stingy). After doing research on the Web, I decided to book a room in Yoschi Hotel, a few km down the hill at Ngadisari.

Yoschi Hotel offered four types of accommodation: Economy Room, Standard Room, Deluxe Cottage and Family Cottage. I chose an Economy Room, at 104,000 Rp per night. The room did not have attached bathroom, but I could use the hot shower in the garden.

It is worth noting that October was considered low season in Yoschi, but high season in Cemoro Lawang’s hotels.

Here are some pictures of Yoschi Hotel:

My dinner in the hotel – Steak with asparagus:

Now, the verdict…


Price is very competitive; atmosphere is great; its restaurant serves good food; the staff are also very helpful.


The location isn’t the most convenient: you can’t see Mt Bromo from Ngadisari; there were no wartel (shop for making long distance calls) nearby, and warnet (Internet shop) was 3km down the hill at Sukapura.

Useful information:

Yoschi’s webpage


tel: +62-813 3636 5438, +62-857 4988 0299

On the business side:

Yoschi’s rooms were relatively cheap, but it made money from side businesses, e.g. restaurant. Jackets were available for rental at 25,000 Rp each, and I bought a winter hat for 10,000 Rp.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Java Trip (III)

The Road to Bromo

It was 5am, Oct 25, 2010. I was awakened by the caw of a cock. Can you imagine that I was in the second largest city of Indonesia?

My next stop for the East Java tour was Mount Bromo. But for that, I need to get to Ngadisari, a few kilometers from the volcano.

When I checked in to Orchid Guesthouse the previous day, I learned that complimentary breakfast would be provided. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be served until 7.30am. Wanting to get to Ngadisari early, I decided to check out at 6.30am, and had my breakfast in Purabaya Bus Terminal instead. (By the way, 7.30am was relatively late in East Java. Splendid Inn, which I would stay in four days later, served breakfast starting from 6am.)

I took a public bus from Purabaya to Probolinggo. Along the way, I saw many paddy fields. Java, fertilized by volcanic ash, was an important rice producer…

Paddy field in Java…

At Probolinggo, I changed to minibus. The minibus attendant told me that the fare to Ngadisari was 25,000Rp. There was a catch, though – the bus wouldn’t leave Probolinggo until it was full.

One hour had passed, there were still insufficient passengers. The attendant came to tell the passengers that the minibus would leave in a while, with 2/3 of the seats filled. But the fare would increase to 40,000Rp. (WTF!) Judging that there were no feasible alternatives, I had to accept the offer.

Minibuses to Bromo

Well, the minibus was not full when it departed Probolinggo, but it continue to pick up passengers along the way. At one point, there were about 20 passengers in the vehicle. Junior high school students, all girls, clung onto the outside of the bus precariously as it cruised along. (See picture below. The guy in black is the minibus attendant.)

After about 1 ½ hour, the minibus reached Ngadisari. I asked to be dropped off at Yoschi Hotel, where I would spend the night. The bus proceeded to Cemoro Lawang, the last settlement before Mount Bromo.

I will write more about Yoschi Hotel in the next post. Now let’s look at some pictures shot in Ngadisari…

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Pitfalls of American Model

[A break from my East Java series]

In my post dated Oct 22, 2010, I hailed America’s decentralized government over Malaysia’s centralized model. Nonetheless, I must admit that American model isn’t all perfect. Here are some pitfalls:

Short term focus

The United States is the champion of capitalism. Typical Americans are more concerned with quarterly bottom line than long term profits.


Not in my backyard!

American homeowners do not want infrastructure to be built near their houses, for fear it would affect the property values. Such mentality has negative impacts on development.

(Read related post here.)

Economy based on consumption

The 2008 economic downturn has proven that America’s economy based on consumption is not sustainable. It is also bad for the environment.


Business groups have too much influence over the Congress.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Java Trip (II)

WARNING: Long post


My first stop in Java was Surabaya…

Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, was not geared towards tourists. Unlike Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ho Chi Minh City or Bali, Surabaya did not have a backpackers’ quarter with high concentration of budget hotels and other tourism-related businesses. Based on the information given in Lonely Planet, I decided to stay in Orchid Guesthouse, near the ‘Old City’.

This picture was taken in Jalan Bongkaran, where Orchid Guesthouse was located. Trishaw remained common throughout East Java…

After the evening rain…

For reasons which I did not know, most of the shops in this area were closed. (It was Sunday evening.)

Here is a Chinese-style architecture in Kya Kya Market. Lonely Planet refers to this area as Chinatown, but I didn’t see many ethnic Chinese…

A church in Chinatown…

Narrow alleys in Chinatown…

Fish market in Old City…

While there were plenty of road-side stores in this area, proper resto were hard to come by. In the end, I had to settle it in McDonald’s.

Value meal specific for McDonald’s Indonesia – with rice, soup, chicken, scrambled egg and soft drink…

Question: Should you go to Surabaya?

While the Old City is quite interesting, Surabaya as a whole isn’t such a great place to visit. If you are short of time, you may give it a pass.